Can’t believe you now have to factor in wildfires when you consider where to settle? Well, that’s the way it is. If you’re lucky enough to afford a home in today’s housing market, you probably want to ensure it isn’t a pile of ashes by the end of your 30-year mortgage.
On Monday, the New York nonprofit research group First Street Foundation released a free online tool that maps wildfire probability by address in the mainland US, excluding Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and other areas. The site also monitors flooding, but while the US government monitors flood risk at the home level, it isn’t doing the same for wildfires.
In a YouTube video and on its website, the nonprofit said how it collected its Fire Factor data by considering examples of past wildfires in various locations and areas that could be fueled. For potential wildfires and how flammable homes are in the immediate area. The model uses weather conditions from 2011 to 2021 and the standard RCP 4.5 carbon emissions scenario of about 2 degrees temperature rise to see how bad it could get in the coming decades.
In a press release, First Street reported that more than 30 million properties are at risk from wildfires. Twenty million properties have a “moderate” risk of a 6% chance of damage from wildfires in 30 years, while another 6 million have a “high” risk of more than 14%.
The First Street Foundation reported that in addition to an overall increase in the likelihood of wildfires, many states would also see an increase in the number of homes that could be affected by emerging infernos. (Image: First Street Foundation)
As first reported by The New York Times, just under half of all addresses in the southern states of the US face at least some fire risk, according to First Street data. While more than 806,000 properties are at stake in the Big Sky Country, and for 30 years, that number will rise to 836,000. That number will increase to 56% in the next 30 years. Fire Factor data also shows that 98% of all properties are at some risk in Wyoming. In Montana, the percentage of properties with at least 1% risk is 93%.
According to First Street data, the risk accumulates over time, meaning that a home with less than a 1% chance of going into a wildfire has a 14% chance over 30 years. Outside researchers looking at First Street’s data told the Times it’s best to view the detailed address-level data as estimates, not guarantees.
This year’s wildfire season (although, due to climate change, the growing number of fires over time could be called a “wildfire year”) has already started badly. Among the dozen fires in the US Southwest and Texas is the massive 116,954.25 ha Calf Canyon/Hermit’s Peak mega fire raging in New Mexico. According to the National Wildlife Coordinating Group, that won’t likely be curtailed until late July. Some states that once felt safe from extreme fires are now considering mitigation. A generally peaceful state, Oregon will soon require workplaces to teach workers how to respond to wildfires.